Naked mole-rats and pain, new research

This video says about itself:

18 June 2015

Naked mole-rats are some of the most fascinating members of the animal kingdom – but just how unique are they? Turns out, they diverged from their nearest relative more than 31 MILLION years ago! Field Museum curator Dr. Bruce Patterson, and Yale postdoctoral researcher Nate Upham have determined they ought to be in their own scientific family. Now, can someone please update their Wikipedia page?

Read more about this discovery on The Field Museum’s website.

Here‘s the abstract for the paper:

Patterson, B. and Upham, N. “A newly recognized family from the Horn of Africa, the Heterocephalidae (Rodentia: Ctenohystrica).” (abstract)

Shout-out to Jillian at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo for allowing us to get footage of their colony!

HUGE thank-you to Bruce and Nate for their help with this episode! And, congratulations to Bruce for being the 2015 recipient of the prestigious C. Hart Merriam Award from the American Society of Mammalogists!

From Science News:

Hot and spicy pain signals get blocked in naked mole-rats

by Laura Sanders

5:23pm, October 12, 2016

Like Marvel’s surly superhero Luke Cage, naked mole-rats are seemingly indestructible, hairless creatures that are impervious to certain kinds of pain. This last power has puzzled researchers, because like other mammals, mole-rats have functional versions of a protein called TRPV1, which responds to painfully hot stimuli.

It turns out that a different protein, TrkA, is the key to the missing pain signals, Gary Lewin of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin and colleagues report in the Oct. 11 Cell Reports. Usually, TrkA detects inflammation and kicks off a molecular reaction that produces pain sensation by activating TRPV1. But naked mole-rats produce a version of TrkA that doesn’t trigger this pain cascade.

That means that certain nerve cells don’t become more sensitive after encountering something hot, such as capsaicin, a molecule that puts the burn in spicy peppers. Because naked mole-rats spend their time in hot African climates, the rodents might have evolved to not need the pain signals that come from heat, the authors speculate.

Cellular senescence is an evolutionary adaptation that prevents damaged cells from dividing out of control and developing into cancer. However, senescence has a negative side: by stopping cell division, it also accelerates aging. In a surprising finding, biologists have shown that naked mole rats experience the same cellular senescence as much shorter-lived mice, yet they continue to live long, cancer-free lives: here.

Naked mole-rats live in colonies of two breeders and around 300 non-breeding workers. Although the breeding pair carries the metabolic cost of reproduction and, in the queen’s case, lactation, they live longer than non-breeders and remain fertile throughout their lives. Researchers investigated the genetic mechanisms beneath this apparent paradox: here.

Naked mole rats eat the poop of their queen for parenting cues. The scat contains the sex hormone estradiol, which turns regular mole rats into caregivers. By Laurel Hamers, 3:00pm, August 27, 2018.

4 thoughts on “Naked mole-rats and pain, new research

  1. Pingback: Naked mole-rats and pain, new research — Dear Kitty. Some blog |

  2. Pingback: USA: Illinois Yields Bounty of Mastodons and Mammoths | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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